Mr. Broder was an icon for the Washington Post in an era when the newspaper distinguished itself in many areas, particularly Watergate, for which Broder won a Pulitzer. The oddest label for him was that he represented the “left” side of the political dial. However, what he did most was smack Democrats, while very rarely take it to Republicans. He was the ultimate gauge of conventional wisdom.
A helpful collection of Broder’s views was compiled by FAIR back in 1994:
Also unlike his conservative counterparts in their treatment of Democrats, Broder doesn’t attack or try to discredit Republican leaders; he leans over backwards to pat them on the back. Thus, Lee Atwater, the organizer of the Willie Horton campaign of 1988 is “tough and effective” (11/25/90); George Bush, ultimately responsible for the Horton ploy, did this despite a “life-long history of tolerance and decency in racial matters” (6/9/91).
Reagan himself was repeatedly lauded for his “presidential” qualities and “national leadership of a high order,” e.g., on Grenada and in pushing through his economic program (11/4/84), and any shortcomings were “overshadowed by the grace with which he functions as chief of state in moments of national tragedy and triumph” (12/22/85).
Broder is more severe on Democrats, except those hard to distinguish from Republicans (so-called “New Democrats”). For Broder (8/14/87), those who attacked the Bork appointment were “quick-lip liberals” who “pop off in opposition.” Jerry Brown, campaigning in 1992, was attacked (2/26/92) as a “loud-voiced protest candidate” offering left-wing populism and “phony salvation.”
With Mr. Broder the Washington Post‘s “left,” it’s no wonder Democrats fared so poorly during Carter and Clinton. More from FAIR:
On issues where Broder is willing to stick his neck out, his differences with the Republicans are largely matters of style. On welfare and “family values,” Broder joined the Republican/New Democrat throng by trumpeting “the centrality of values like family stability, personal responsibility and work” — while downplaying economic conditions and racism (3/24/93). Broder strongly favored NAFTA on the ground that it represented society’s “winners” and would enlarge U.S. markets.
Broder was also extremely kind to the Reagan/Bush court appointees of the past decade, and raised no objection to the resultant ideological restructuring of the courts. Souter, for example, was “a superb choice–both substantively and politically” (7/27/90)–despite “grumbles from the political extremes.”
Except for the low-intensity Nicaraguan and Salvadoran conflicts, Broder got onto the war bandwagons of the Reagan/Bush era with enthusiasm. The Grenada invasion he found entirely justifiable based on our natural imperial rights (11/2/83): “We are old-fashioned enough to think that, even in a nuclear age, there are such things as spheres of influence and geographical areas of vital interest.”
Broder was equally keen on the Panama invasion of 1989. He criticized (1/14/90) an open letter to President Bush that called attention to the invasion’s violations of the U.N. Charter and OAS agreement, signed by “69 left-wing politicians and activists” (including former Sen. J.W. Fulbright). Broder dismissed it as “nonsense” and simply “static on the left.”
During the Gulf War, Broder exceeded himself in patriotic ardor, complaining of the Democrats’ “usual spectacle of disarray” in failing to give Bush immediate authority to fight (1/11/91), and accepting without question the administration’s false claim of an interest in a diplomatic solution to the crisis (8/19/90, 1/18/91, 4/10/91).
David Broder represented commentary that is the worst of insider Washington D.C. thinking and an elitism, a leading member of Sally Quinn’s clan, which meant he was an original member of the Clinton hater club and helped churn the anti-Clinton fervor with gusto.
Sally Quinn’s infamous “In Washington, That Letdown Feeling” captured the insider feelings about the Pres. Clinton after the Lewinsky affair broke:
“He came in here and he trashed the place,” says Washington Post columnist David Broder, “and it’s not his place.”
[…] “The judgment is harsher in Washington,” says The Post’s Broder. “We don’t like being lied to.”
Nothing annoyed the Washington elite more than the hicks from the sticks, Bill and Hillary Clinton. After Ronald Reagan, the Arkansans were see as interlopers. To understand Washington that’s where you have to begin.
Broder turned Pres. Clinton’s moral failings inside out and made it all about them, the D.C. community who considered Washington a small town. That’s true if you consider the gossip and petty political spitefulness of the chroniclers who hid John F. Kennedy’s indiscretions, but thought Clinton should be hung by the Washington Monument.
The passing of a Washington icon like Mr. Broder signals those who held court in the 20th century are now passing away to leave a new generation in charge.
What comes in David Broder’s wake is the curse of access journalism in a new media era where politicians can go around reporters and writers to never answer questions from the press and go straight to the people. Something that was an impossibility in Mr. Broder’s era, when politicians hung on his every word.